Cyrus R. K. Patell

October 21, 2021

Today is a national holiday in the UAE where I'm teaching: it marks the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The actual dates of Mawlid  were sundown last Monday to sundown last Tuesday, but we celebrate it today officially to give people a long weekend.
It seems like an auspicious day then to announce two events related to Lucasfilm: Filmmaking, Philosophy, and the Star Wars Universe.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Galina Limorenko, a neuroscientist doing doctoral work at the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology and Neuroproteomics in Lausanne, who is also the host of a science podcast at the New Books Network.
The podcast is now available here:
Next week, I will have the pleasure of being part of a live session at Skeptics in the Pub Online. The title of the session is “Star Wars and Critical Thinking; or, Why Must Luke Skywalker Turn of His Computer in Order to Destroy the Death Star?”
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Here’s the promo blurb for the talk: “Why must Luke Skywalker turn off his targeting computer at the climactic moment of George Lucas’s iconic film Star Wars (1977)? Star Wars is celebrated in part because it started a revolution in cinematic special-effects, but underlying the film’s narrative logic is a deeply rooted anxiety about the right uses of technology. Using the relationship between Star Wars and the Luddism as a case study, this talk will investigate the idea that the saga, which has now become a transmedia phenomenon, provides a platform for public philosophy and critical thinking through its establishment of a cosmopolitan conceptual framework.”
The time and URL for the talk are shown above, and there's also a Facebook page for the event:
According to the SITP website, “Skeptics in the Pub are groups which meet and converse in the UK and beyond, usually gathering once every month. The event was founded in London, UK by Dr Scott Campbell in 1999, for all those interested in science, history, psychology, philosophy, investigative journalism and how to examine extraordinary claims of all types. A speaker (or number of speakers) is invited each month to present a topic of interest, which is followed by a discussion in a relaxed and friendly pub atmosphere.”
The meetings went online because of the pandemic, and apparently the format was enough of a success that it has continued even as groups begin to meet in-person again.
So grab a beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and join us next Thursday.

I'm presently finishing up a book proposal that has that whimsical title. It arises from the research that I've been doing since I've been at NYU Abu Dhabi on the spread of Shakespeare's Hamlet as a case study in the dynamics of what I’ve been calling the “global text,” a text (or writer’s oeuvre) that serves as a focal point for global cultural heritage.
The book will approach the idea of the global text by exploring different genres—drama, epic, the novel, lyric portray, and film—asking three different overarching sets of questions: 
1) In what ways was a text like Hamlet or Shelley’s Frankenstein “global” in its own day, adopting a “worldly” approach that transcends its particular locale? (I'm using the term “global” in its present sense as part of this thought experiment.)
2) How does the history of the publication, criticism, and (where applicable) the performance of the text transform it into a global cultural commodity? 
3) What is the cultural legacy of the text today throughout a variety of global media forms, including plays, films, novels, operas, and works of visual art? This framework synthesizes and extends a variety of different methodologies within literary scholarship, including close reading, influence study and intertextuality, reader-response theory, literary historiography, history-of-the-book analysis, translation studies, materialist approaches, cultural studies, and world literature theory.
And, yes, you guessed it, the central case study of the film chapter will be Star Wars.
So how glad am I that Star Wars Visions has just been released on Disney+? Very.
For those of you who haven't yet heard of Visions, it is a set of nine short anime films produced by seven different Japanese studios, each of which was asked to tell “a Star Wars story.” Check out the trailer for the series:
Even better for my purposes, the first episode turns out to be the starting point for a wonderful new novel entitled Star Wars Ronin: A Visions Novel, written by Emma Mieko Candon.
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Influenced, naturally, by the films of Akira Kurosawa, as well as by Japanese mythologies and histories, the novel is the best kind of speculative fiction, in this case asking, “What if Star Wars grew more out of the jidaigeki tradition of historical fiction than it did out of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Hollywood sci-fi.”
Watching the films and reading the novel will get you thinking about just what it is that makes Star Wars “Star Wars.” There are Jedi, Sith, rebellions, an empire, and lightsabers, but these elements are refracted through the prism of Japanese imperial history rather than Western liberalism.
I'll have a lot more to say about the series and the book in future editions of this newsletter (and of course in the book I'm writing), but for now, if you're looking for a television series to watch or a novel to read, Star Wars Visions and Star Wars Ronin: A Visions Novel are highly recommended. You can read more about Star Wars Visions at

Next Issue: Halloween!

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I'd love to hear your ideas and questions about Star Wars, as well as film, philosophy,  literature, and cultural studies!

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